Veteran title contender, freshman phenom add to Burrell wrestling’s trophy case

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Tuesday, February 9, 2021 | 6:20 PM


The Burrell Bucs have a long history of great wrestling, and even in a season with multiple stops and starts, this year is no different.

Senior AJ Corrado and freshman Cooper Hornack, along with others, have been the model of consistency for Burrell this season, and they’ve both done so in big ways.

Corrado, who is trying to return to the PIAA individual championship for the second straight season, has been one of the best wrestlers in the WPIAL this year. He proved it this past weekend when he won his first Westmoreland County wrestling title.

After the entire Burrell team had to pull out of the Powerade tournament, Corrado missed out on an opportunity to face off with Kiski Area’s Enzo Morlacci, who is ranked 16th in the country by TheOpenMat.com.

Corrado got the chance in the county tournament and earned a 3-1 decision over Morlacci. His victory proved how well he’s wrestled this season, and it also gave him a boost of confidence as the Bucs enter the team portion of the postseason.

“It kinda just shows me where I’m at this year with the lack of competition that we are having,” Corrado said. “It was a good testing match to see where I’m at, what I need to work on and stuff. But I know I’m at the top of my game this year, especially with the way I’m competing.”

So far this season, Corrado is 17-0 with 11 pins, one technical fall and three decisions. He has dominated his competition and punched his ticket to the county finals with two pins in under a minute.

The Brown University commit also stepped up for the Bucs when they took on Derry and Mt. Pleasant on Monday en route to capturing their 18th straight section title. Corrado pinned Derry’s Nathan Barkley in a minute, then bumped up a weight class and earned a 6-1 decision over Mt. Pleasant’s Noah Gnibus, who is ranked No. 3 in Class AA at 172 pounds.

“It’s senior year now, so I gotta give it all I got,” Corrado said. “There’s like more excuses this year to skip out on a practice or sleep for a day instead of working out, but it’s like my back is against the wall and it’s my last chance to achieve my goal.”

Corrado has been chasing a PIAA title since he entered high school, and after making it to the state finals last season and coming up just short, he’s more motivated than ever. He feels like this season might be his year.

“If you look back, every year I’ve been improving on my finish at the state tournament,” said Corrado, who has taken seventh, fifth and second at the state tournament. “So, I feel like it’s kinda destined, and I need to get it this year because it’s my last chance.”

In his first varsity season, Hornack has been just as good for the Bucs and has produced a record of 15-1 with nine pins, a major decision and a decision. His only loss came against Penn-Trafford’s Troy Hohman in a nonsection dual meet.

He kicked off the year by winning the North Allegheny Wright Automotive Invitational. Then, this past weekend, Hornack captured his first county title. As the top seed, Hornack pinned Kiski Area’s Jackson Sandor in 45 seconds and earned a major decision over Franklin Regional’s Ty Kapusta.

“I had a pretty good sense of confidence going into the tournament,” Hornack said. “I just kind of wanted to go in, work my offense and score as many points as I could.”

As a young and talented wrestler, Hornack came into this season with a bunch of natural ability, but his work ethic and the guys he has alongside him have set him apart.

With top-tier wrestlers like Corrado and three-time WPIAL champion Ian Oswalt in the same room, Hornack has been a sponge, picking up things from his coaches and teammates.

“Ian helps me a lot with cradles and all that, and then they just push me to get better,” Hornack said.

Hornack has built up a lot of confidence this season, but heading into the postseason, the talented freshman said he is just taking it one match at a time.

“It feels great,” Hornack said about the success he’s had this season. “But I don’t want to get too cocky. I just want to keep working hard and do my best.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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